Categorized | USA, Health

US racism: the storm has broken

Protesters in front of the burning Minneapolis 3rd Precinct Police Station (photo: Unicorn Media)

As we go to press, tens of thousands of US people are protesting at state-sanctioned racist murder committed by the US police. In Minneapolis protesters defied a curfew; in Washington the US Secret Service locked down the White House as demonstrators converged, denouncing the police and President Trump. They marched in Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Denver, Houston, Louisville and in cities across the US. Highways were blocked outside Oakland and San Jose in California. Businesses were set on fire, goods and property were expropriated; a Minneapolis police station was burned out. Protesters chanted ‘No justice, no peace’, ‘Jail killer cops’, ‘Abolish the police’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’. The rage at racist police in a racist society is undammed.

The trigger for the protests was the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on 25 May, after he was he was alleged to have used forged money in a supermarket. Police initially claimed the unarmed Floyd resisted arrest. However, video footage shows this was a blatant lie. One officer knelt forcefully on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes as Floyd pleaded ‘I cannot breathe’ and ‘Don’t kill me’. Witnesses can be heard yelling at officers to get off Floyd, who finally lost consciousness. On 26 May the police called Floyd’s death the result of his ‘suffering from medical distress’. Video footage of the killing was posted on Facebook and, on that day, demonstrators marched on Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct. A black CNN TV crew was arbitrarily detained while covering the protests. On the third successive night of demonstrating and fighting against the police the protesters succeeded in having Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, arrested and charged with murder. The other three police are still to be charged, although all four have been sacked.  

The intensity of the protests and their spread across the US alarms the ruling class. The more so as the US economy folds, and unemployment and poverty grow rapidly with the catastrophe of the government’s response to the coronavirus. On 28 May the Minnesota National Guard announced that 500 soldiers were preparing to deploy. President Trump called the protesters ‘THUGS’ and tweeted that he had just ‘spoke to [Minnesota] Governor Tim Walz and told him the military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts’. The Washington Post reported that US Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark A Milley had spoken with Governor Walz on 29 May. Thus far the state forces have used tear gas, pepper spray, mace, rubber bullets and lead shot contained in fabric containers against the protesters. Trump and his gang are quite capable of escalating the violence to ignite a civil war.

US capitalism was built on slavery and the extermination of the original inhabitants of North America. Black people in the US are disproportionately infected by Covid-19. They form 13% of the US population, but 33% of the prisoners. Of people shot by Minneapolis police between 2009 and May 2019, 60% were Afro-Americans, although Black people constitute just 20% of the city’s population. When the people have mobilised to shake the foundations of this rotten system their leaders have been killed: Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the leaders of the Black Panther Party. In the 2016-17 US football season Colin Kaepernick knelt on one knee to peacefully protest against the police murder of Black people. He was condemned by President Trump and has not played major league football since.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump only reluctantly distanced himself from the endorsement of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. He defended the ‘very fine people’ on both sides after the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where anti-fascist protester Heather Heyer was run over and killed by a racist. Trump praised Robert E Lee, the Confederate general defeated trying to preserve slavery. All of Trump’s choices for the US federal judiciary have refused ‘to say whether Brown v Board of Education, the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision that struck down government-sanctioned racial segregation as unconstitutional, is binding law’ (Financial Times 30 April 2020).

The US ruling class and its agents have reason to fear what they will have seen across the US in these past few days: the people coming out of the ghettoes and the slums and onto the streets. They will turn to the Democrats and to Black middle class representatives to discourage violence and encourage protesters to pursue reform and follow the legal routes. But the systemic violence against Black and other ethnic groups that permeates US society, day after day, in state after state, Republican or Democrat, will continue until the entire stinking edifice is torn down. This is the lesson of US history.

By: Trevor Rayne

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